severe

adjective

se·​vere sə-ˈvir How to pronounce severe (audio)
severer; severest
1
a
: strict in judgment, discipline, or government
b
: of a strict or stern bearing or manner : austere
2
: rigorous in restraint, punishment, or requirement : stringent
3
: strongly critical or condemnatory
a severe critic
4
a
: maintaining a scrupulously exacting standard of behavior or self-discipline
b
: establishing exacting standards of accuracy and integrity in intellectual processes
a severe logician
5
: sober or restrained in decoration or manner : plain
a severe dress
6
a
: causing discomfort or hardship : harsh
severe winters
b
: very painful or harmful
a severe wound
7
: requiring great effort : arduous
a severe test
8
: of a great degree
severe depression
severely adverb
severeness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for severe

severe, stern, austere, ascetic mean given to or marked by strict discipline and firm restraint.

severe implies standards enforced without indulgence or laxity and may suggest harshness.

severe military discipline

stern stresses inflexibility and inexorability of temper or character.

stern arbiters of public morality

austere stresses absence of warmth, color, or feeling and may apply to rigorous restraint, simplicity, or self-denial.

living an austere life in the country

ascetic implies abstention from pleasure and comfort or self-indulgence as spiritual discipline.

the ascetic life of the monks

Example Sentences

On Feb. 25 regulators laid out details on how they will run the "stress tests" that Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has promised on the biggest banks. Now those tests, designed to judge whether the banks have the capital to keep lending and absorb losses in a severe recession, face an exam of their own. Jane Sasseen et al., Business Week, 9 Mar. 2009 A study in February in the journal Lancet, for instance, compared treatments for severe ankle sprains, concluding that a below-the-knee cast is superior to a tubular compression bandage. Sharon Begley, Newsweek, 9 Mar. 2009 Between 2000 and 2004 the number of Americans covered by Medicaid rose by a remarkable eight million. Over the same period the ranks of the uninsured rose by six million. So without the growth of Medicaid, the uninsured population would have exploded, and we'd be facing a severe crisis in medical care. Paul Krugman et al., New York Review of Books, 23 Mar. 2006 As several economists—most notably Jeffrey Williamson, of Harvard University—have written recently, international trade increased dramatically between 1850 and the First World War. Williamson goes on to point out that one consequence of this earlier period of globalization was that governments retreated into policies of severe trade and immigration restrictions. Nicholas Lemann, New Yorker, 10 May 1999 The storm caused severe damage to the roof. The patient is in severe pain. children with severe learning disabilities In the most severe cases, the disease can lead to blindness. He suffered a severe head injury. He faces severe penalties for his actions. The war was a severe test of his leadership. See More
Recent Examples on the Web The storm was at least the most severe since November 2014, when some areas south of the city were hit with seven feet of snow that caused significant damage to homes and buildings. Emily Mae Czachor, CBS News, 24 Nov. 2022 His parents wear masks everywhere and avoid riskier environments, such as restaurants and movie theaters, since COVID-19 can be severe for people in their age group. Jamie Ducharme, Time, 23 Nov. 2022 Reports that the sanctions and their enforcement wouldn't be as severe as expected also prompted the decline, traders said. Andrew Duehren, WSJ, 23 Nov. 2022 Once Black families are in the system, the outcomes of their cases are more likely to be severe. Andy Newman, New York Times, 22 Nov. 2022 The reaction may be more severe in spots where your clothing gets damp with sweat—such as your groin. Elizabeth Millard, Men's Health, 21 Nov. 2022 Meanwhile, Central Florida isn’t seeing the same dramatic spike of RSV — a normally mild illness that can be severe in very young or old people — as other parts of the country. Caroline Catherman, Orlando Sentinel, 21 Nov. 2022 But now, her fragile body was caving to one of several respiratory illnesses spreading across the US: respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, which often is most severe in young children and older adults. Christina Zdanowicz, CNN, 20 Nov. 2022 Daily life without cooling technology will become extremely difficult, access to water will be scarce, and disruptions to agriculture will be severe. Quartz, 18 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'severe.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin severus

First Known Use

1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of severe was in 1548

Cite this Entry

“Severe.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/severe. Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

severe

adjective

se·​vere sə-ˈvi(ə)r How to pronounce severe (audio)
severer; severest
1
a
: strict in judgment, discipline, or government
a severe ruler
b
: serious in feeling or manner : grave
2
: not using unnecessary ornament : plain
a severe style
3
: inflicting pain, distress, or hardship
severe wounds
a severe winter
4
: requiring great effort
a severe test
severely adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on severe

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